Understanding the Threads of Leadership by Kaitlin Fritz

When preparing for my SLP class on Leadership, my thoughts went straight to what I imagined as a leader: current board members, CEOs, and honestly, the ‘straightforward’ examples we think of when we scan LinkedIn. It was not until I truly opened my mind up to what leadership actually meant that I was able to build a diverse panel of true voices of those who lived, learned, and could share what it meant to be a leader in their field.

With counsel (and inspiration!) from my fellows, I decided to build a panel of diverse leaders from all arenas of leadership–from a successful Army officer who has experienced first-hand the pressure of leading in extreme circumstances to a first-time founder who passionately built her Healthtech startup–because leadership, like most things, does not have a singular narrative. It is something that is contextual, time-given, and experienced, and I wanted to find individuals who could speak to all areas of the journey. 

My panellists ranged from very successful women in business like CEO of the Laidlaw Foundation Susanna Kemp and Devicka Wood, a Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur, to Joseph Brown, a Commanding Officer in the British Army and Kriss Baird, a former Innovate UK advisor and edtech advocate. Each were spectacular in their own right and showed that no matter what field of work or expertise, there are threads of leadership like fortitude, determination, community, and mentorship, that span across sectors. Joseph shared methodologies used within military leadership and shared his insights on the hierarchy of leaders and the inherent respect each level is given. Devicka gave us insight on determination, standing for your mission, and the truth behind the entrepreneurial journey; Kriss showed us that though sometimes events seem unrelated, there is a way to create them into your constellation map of leadership. Susanna revealed to us her journey to leading an international foundation and becoming a leader with impact and advocate for the next generation.

Though all their stories were different, they shared true sentiments and practical knowledge that could bolster our own leadership tool kit. I feel like it made us, who are all on different stages of our leadership path, a little less intimidated of this journey we are embarking on.

Though there are always hiccups with the being the class CEO (google hangouts failing to work out when you need it and always having more questions than time permits), I felt like it was a great introduction and prompted reflection for each of us fellows. How do we see ourselves as leaders?

How can each of us utilize our strengths to motivate others and understand, but more importantly, learn from our leadership mistakes? Following on the panel, we took time to reflect on their thoughts and words and devise a way to implement these strategies within our own businesses.

John Maxwell said, “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” Each of our panellists truly empowered and inspired us to fulfil a work life of action and example, and this is a thread which all of us can apply within the new year.

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